From green mobility to Greta Thunberg and environmental activism, the issue of sustainability is one of the major hot topics nowadays. Regarding the fashion industry, people, newspapers and companies have increasingly started talking about sustainable fashion and sustainable clothing as a new alternative model to the drifts of fast fashion.
THE FASHION INDUSTRY BECOMES SUSTAINABLE
Despite being no more than a marketing strategy for many companies, fashion sustainability is not only a trend, but a real need and an urgency to face a situation turned dramatic.
The environmental impact of the fashion industry
The apparel industry has experienced a huge growth in the last 20 years: the number of garments purchased per person between 2000 and 2014 increased by about 60% and clothes last for only half as long. This led to terrible consequences for the environment and for many people involved in the production. The fashion industry contributes to around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions due to its long supply chains and energy-intensive production, consuming more energy than the aviation and shipping industry combined.
This is why we need a change and we need to find a new and more sustainable way, an alternative to the fast fashion model that has led the industry in recent years.
Help the environment, but at what cost?
Being sustainable often involves sacrifices and compromises. Although people are increasingly sensitive to this issue, sometimes having to change lifestyle leads people to give up their purpose. In R3UNITE, we think that you can support ethics and sustainability without sacrificing anything. That’s why our garments are both sustainable and “stylish”, designed with an authorial vision inspired by the city culture. The city is our place and we are urban dwellers that do not want to give up the lifestyle and comforts that cities offer us.
THE ISSUE OF FAST FASHION
Fast fashion is a business model based on the rapid mass production of cheap clothing to meet the most recent fashion trends. The success of the brands that adopt this model has led to a major shift in consumer behaviour. They have in fact guided the common consciousness to believe that garments can be considered “old” after wearing them only few times. The cost of this rise in conspicuous consumption is waste, pollution and sweatshops.
The increase in waste
Waste depends on both large-scale production and low-quality garments. Quality and durability have been pushed aside in favour of cheap clothing that meets the current trend but will be out of vogue the following season. This has led to a huge amount of garments ending up in landfills. To give a number, 10.46 million tonnes of clothing ended up in USA landfills in 2014.
The increase in pollution
Pollution is certainly a consequence of waste, but it mainly depends on the production of garments. Cotton, for example, is in 40% of all clothing and it is a highly water-intensive plant. In addition, fast fashion relies on cultivation that makes extensive use of chemical products that are highly polluting and of high risk to the environment if not properly disposed of. Though only 2.4% of the world’s agricultural land is planted with cotton, it consumes almost 10% of all agricultural chemicals and 25% of pesticides. On the other hand, synthetic fibres, such as polyester and nylon, can be found in 72% of garments. The production of these materials produces greenhouse gases like nitrous oxide that is far more polluting than carbon dioxide.
The growth of sweatshops
And, last but not least, comes the issue of sweatshops. In order to cut production costs, companies have outsourced their labour to economically developing countries. Here the labour is much cheaper and laws are far more lax. In these countries the rise of the sweatshops, textile industries often protagonists of repeated scandals over labour conditions, including a total disregard for basic safety measures, low wages, violence in the workplace and child labour.
SUSTAINABLE, ETHIC AND SLOW FASHION: LET’S MAKE IT CLEAR
Even if the fast fashion model is still predominant, there are several newborn sustainable clothing brands and several established companies investing in sustainability.
There are different types of sustainability in fashion and companies that want to invest in it can follow different approaches. In general, sustainable and ethical fashion is an approach that maximizes the benefits to the fashion industry and society at large, while at the same time minimizing its impact on the environment. The two concepts are similar, but they each have slightly different concerns.
- Sustainable fashion is mainly environment-related and it focuses on reducing the impact of the garments production. It involves avoiding the use of pesticides and insecticides by using organic methods. In doing so, the use of alternative or recycled materials is encouraged for both garments and packaging. Moreover, sustainable fashion pays attention to wastewater and energy use. And it can support environmental projects.
- Ethical fashion instead focuses on people and ethical issues. It pays attention to the geographical origin of the garments, to the working conditions and the brand message. And it supports charitable initiatives or local communities.
More generally, the term slow fashion highlights the opposition to the fast fashion model, supporting a new vision of the industry. It fights excessive production, overcomplicated supply chains, and mindless consumption. Values shared from both an ethical and a sustainable approach.
HOW TO SUPPORT SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND WHAT WE CAN DO
As you might have guessed, 100% sustainability is not only a dream, it is just impossible. For example, you introduce microfibers in the environment just by washing your clothes. It is clear that it is not possible to eliminate the emission of co2 in fashion industrial production. But if you wish to know how to support sustainable fashion, we can give you some advice.
- Buy less. If you are really involved in the mass consumption of fast fashion think about purchasing fewer garments. You can make them last longer.
- Buy sustainable. Companies have the responsibility of not being very clear about their sustainability standards. Sometimes, it can be difficult for the consumer to understand if a garment is really produced in a sustainable way. Being informed as possible is one solution but sometimes you do not have time or possibility to do so. If this is your case, just think that probably the less transparent a company is, the less sustainable it is. And if a t-shirt costs 5 dollars it is probably not sustainable.
- Buy second-hand. Choosing to buy vintage or second-hand clothes is for obvious reasons more sustainable. This way you avoid purchasing a new garment and all the energy and materials consumption it involves. You will give new life to clothes that would otherwise be at the end of their life cycle.
- Buy local. Choosing to buy locally produced clothes as well as helping the local economy can be a guarantee that the garment was not produced in a sweatshop under unacceptable working conditions. In addition, clothing transportation is responsible for part of the emissions of toxic and pollutants substances that make the industry so harmful to the environment.
HOW TO CHANGE WITH R3UNITE
R3UNITE is a streetwear fashion brand that has sustainability as a core value. We use materials that are as sustainable as possible and fund social or environmental projects with our released collections. We are on a mission and we think that with our clothes we can make the world a better place. Both for the environment and for people.